Africa Oyé celebrates its twenty fifth anniversary this year. Lots of special things are planned for the showcase Sefton Park shebang, but it’s worth remembering that Oyé is a business with a festival, not just a festival. There are great gigs, education events and showcases all year round, but this week they’re co-hosting a group who they first brought to Liverpool a long time ago. Now, they’re returning as Grammy-winners. By Alan O’Hare. 

It’s always nice to be ahead of a trend – but that’s nothing new for Africa Oyé.

Over a decade has slipped into the rear view mirror since the team behind Oyé brought Tinariwen to town. You’ll have heard all about the Grammy Award-winning Tuareg band now, of course, but back then their ascendant star was in its infancy. “We were the first festival to bring Tinariwen to the UK,” remembers Paul Duhaney, Oyé’s artistic director. “That was way back in 2004.”

2004, hey… the time of Usher and Black Eyes Peas taking over the charts, U2 and Eminem returning with big records and Green Day singing something about “… American idiots”. At that stage, Tinariwen were just a glint in Uncut magazine’s eye, but Duhaney and his team knew they had hit on something special with the Malian group.

Since then, Tinariwen has gone on to release seven albums of cyclical guitar grooves and poetic imagery. The latest, ‘Elwan’ (‘The Elephants’), has been the recipient of five star reviews and attracted the attention of the music press worldwide. Made in the rocky desert near a little town in southern Morocco, the band chose to record there as their hometown in northern Mali proved too unstable and dangerous due to renewed conflict. But it’s also a place of significant cultural importance to the Tuareg-Berber people: the location is where all caravans would stop, before making the long journey to Timbuktu.

Live, the desert rockers rock (well, they do) and fans of Kurt Vile and Steve Gunn – both of whom have played with Tinariwen – won’t be disappointed by the guitar-based attack of their urgent, yet melancholic tunes. Lyrics like “… all that’s left is a groaning land full of old people and children/Oh my brothers! You’re on the wrong path,” cross any cultural valley and the songs from their rich back catalogue are right up there with the new set from ‘Elwan’. “Tinariwen deserve all the accolades they have received over the years,” says Duhaney. “I can’t wait to hear songs from this record and we’re thrilled to be able to team up with Harvest Sun Promotions on this show and have it feature in our twenty fifth anniversary programme.”

Don’t miss this one – you can brag about being there in ten years’ time.

Tuesday March 7th 2017, 8pm
Invisible Wind Factory, Regent Road
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Pic by Marie Planeille